Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Gardening as a Way to Write

Gardening is a joyful work for me, one that somehow helps me to write as well. Growing a flower garden isn't easy in an arid region like ours -- one in which I spend 30 to 45 minutes each day with a watering can or hose in my hand just to keep the plants alive in hundred-degree heat all summer. After I spent my usual 45 minutes watering today, I went out with my camera and snapped a few photos of some highlights in my rapidly-fading garden.

Yet I take much joy in the beauty of the flowers, like the above bunch of old-fashioned double roses, with a little friendly bee included. While I water, pull weeds, cultivate the less-than-ideal stony soil, prune dead blooms, and tie up drooping hollyhocks, I find myself mulling over phrases, word choices, organizational ideas -- basically writing in my mind as I garden.

(above, flowering sage)
My excellent writer friend, Kitty, and I have discussed the need for writers to have a creative activity in our lives that allow us to write afterward. For Kitty, it's music, singing especially. And for me it's gardening. Thrusting my hands into the soil brings out something elemental in me, something in which I feel united to God's Creation, as though I can give voice -- or in my case, written expression -- to natural beauty. In gardening, I receive the blessing of being able to create alongside God in bringing together elements of His Creation into beauty and grace. To work with growing things -- established roses, hollyhocks that reseed themselves, evergreen rosemary, sage, and thyme -- feeds my writer's mind, filling it with words and phrases that never come to me at any other time of my day.

(above, hollyhock)
And in gardening, the solitude of the work also feeds my creative side. As an introvert, I need time alone to think deeply, to pray, to create. I adore my family, love my friends, delight in discussion, yet I desperately need to be alone where I can at last listen to God's quiet voice, at last open my mind to creativity, at last can think, consider, ponder, wonder. Solitude is indeed one of the greatest gifts given by gardening, one that refuels my creative side and enables me to be able to write. And the simple beauty of flowers, herbs, trees, and brilliant blue skies above me are of course the most profound gift of the art of gardening. Solitude and beauty make the perspiration running into my eyes, the blisters, and the sore muscles of gardening very much worthwhile.

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